SA firm scores with digital prototyping

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Adept Airmotive wins recognition for digital design and prototyping.A local aero-engine manufacturer has won international acclaim for using computer-aided design and digital prototyping to develop a lightweight piston engine.

Autodesk, the US-based building, manufacturing and infrastructure industry software and services company, recently selected Adept Airmotive from the 800 000 users of its Inventor engineering design software as “Inventor of the Month”. This was in recognition of it using the program to improve the state of the piston engine art.

Adept, based at Virginia Airport, outside Durban, used the software to develop a compact 320-horsepower general aviation engine that offers low vibration levels and high structural integrity.

The 127kg engine is lighter than a traditional piston engine of comparable horsepower, allowing it to pass significant fuel efficiencies to the aircraft operator. It is also less damaging to the environment.

“Digital prototyping was absolutely critical because it allowed us to bring a single digital model through every phase of design and development,” says Adept MD Richard Schulz. “We were able to explore the form, fit and function of our designs, without expending time and resources on physical prototypes.”

He adds the design philosophy allowed Adept to produce accurate three-dimensional models of the 320T before anything was actually built ‑ reducing the number of physical prototypes that needed to be constructed.

Processes that once took hours ‑ such as changing the wall thickness of an engine component ‑ were completed almost instantaneously. This allowed engineers to spend less time constructing geometric models and more time creating innovative designs and then simulating the performance of the designs under real-world conditions.

This optimisation process allowed Adept to minimise potentially expensive downstream changes by catching errors before they reached manufacturing. As a result, Adept ‑ with a core team of only three designers ‑ was able to produce a working prototype of the engine, paving the way for the introduction of a new generation of modern general aviation engines.

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